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See also Geneva Convention for the amelioration of the condition of the wounded and sick in armies in the field (1929)

The Geneva Convention (1929) was signed at Geneva, July 27, 1929. Its official name is the Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Geneva July 27, 1929. It entered into force 19 June 1931.[1] It is this version of the Geneva Conventions which covered the treatment of prisoners of war during World War II. It is the predecessor of the Third Geneva Convention signed in 1949.

On their web site, the International Committee of the Red Cross states that:

Provisions concerning the treatment of prisoners of war are contained in the Hague Regulations of 1899 and 1907. In the course of World War I they revealed several deficiencies as well as a lack of precision. Such defects were partly overcome by special agreements made between belligerents in Berne in 1917 and 1918. In 1921, the International Red Cross Conference held at Geneva expressed the wish that a special convention on the treatment of prisoners of war be adopted. The International Committee of the Red Cross drew up a draft convention which was submitted to the Diplomatic Conference convened at Geneva in 1929. The Convention does not replace but only completes the provisions of the Hague regulations. The most important innovations consisted in the prohibition of reprisals and collective penalties, the organization of prisoners' work, the designation, by the prisoners, of representatives and the control exercised by protecting Powers.[2]

General provisions

Article 1 makes explicit reference to Articles 1, 2, and 3 of Hague Convention respecting the laws and customs of war on land (Hague IV),[3] of October 18, 1907, to define who are lawful combatants and so qualify as prisoners of war (POW) on capture. In addition to combatants covered by Hague IV, some civilians are also covered in the section of this Convention called the "Application of the Convention to certain classes of civilians".

Articles 2, 3, and 4 specifies that POWs are prisoners of the Power which holds them and not prisoners of the unit which takes their surrender; that POWs have the right to honor and respect, and that women shall be treated with all the regard due to their sex, and that prisoners of a similar category must be treated in the same way.


Articles 5 and 6 covers what may and may not be done to a prisoner on capture. If requested, unless too ill to comply, prisoners are bound to give their true name and rank, but they may not be coerced into giving any more information. Prisoners' personal possessions, other than arms and horses, may not be taken from them.

The wording of the 1949 Third Geneva Convention was intentionally altered from that of the 1929 convention so that soldiers who "fall into the power" following surrender or mass capitulation of an enemy are now protected as well as those taken prisoner in the course of fighting.[4][5] (see Disarmed Enemy Forces)


Evacuation of prisoners of war

Articles 7 and 8 states that prisoners should be evacuated from the combat zone within the shortest possible period, and that Belligerents are bound mutually to notify each other of their capture of prisoners within the shortest period possible.

Prisoner of war camps

Articles 9 and 10 covers the type of camp in which POWs can be detained. They must be constructed in such a way so that the conditions are similar to those used by the belligerent's own soldiers in base camps. The camps must be located in healthy locations and away from the combat zone. Also, "Belligerents shall, so far as possible, avoid assembling in a single camp prisoners of different races or nationalities." Prisoners may not be used as human shields by being sent to an area where they would be exposed to the fire of the fighting zone, or be employed to render by their presence certain points or areas immune from bombardment.

Articles 11, 12, and 13 states that: "Food must be of a similar quality and quantity to that of the Belligerent's own soldiers, and POWs cannot be denied food as a punishment; A canteen selling local produce and products should be provided. Adequate clothing should be provided; and that sanitary service in camps should be more than sufficient to prevent epidemics."

Articles 14 and 15 covers the provision of medical facilities in each camp.

Articles 16 and 17 covers the provision of religious needs, intellectual diversions and sport facilities.

Articles 18 and 19 covers the internal discipline of a camp which is under the command of a responsible officer.

Articles 20, 21, 22, and 23 states that officers and persons of equivalent status who are prisoners of war shall be treated with the regard due their rank and age and provide more details on what that treatment should be.

Article 24 covers the rate of pay of prisoners of war.

Articles 25 and 26 covers the responsibilities of the detaining authority when transferring prisoners from one location to another. Prisoners must be healthy enough to travel, they must be informed to where they are being transferred; and their personal possessions, including bank accounts, should remain accessible.

Labour of prisoners of war

Articles 27 to 34 covers labour by prisoners of war. Work must fit the rank and health of the prisoners. The work must not be war-related and must be safe work. Remuneration will be agreed between the Belligerents and will belong to the prisoner who carries out the work.

External relations of prisoners of war

Articles 35 to 41 covers how and when prisoners of war may correspond with others. Prisoners should be allowed to correspond with their family within a week of capture. They should be allowed to receive letters, and parcels which contain books, which may be censored, food, and clothing.

Prisoners' relations with the authorities

Articles 42 to 67 covers the prisoners' relations with the authorities. Most of these provisions are covered by the provision that prisoners are under the detaining power's own code of military regulations, with some additional provisions which cover specific prisoner of war issues and some other provisions to protect prisoners of war if the military regulations of the detaining power do not meet a minimum standard. Two specific regulations which differentiate prisoners of war from the detainees' own military regulations, is that no prisoner of war may be deprived of his rank by the detaining Power, and escaped prisoners of war who are retaken before being able to rejoin their own army or to leave the territory occupied by the army which captured them shall be liable only to disciplinary punishment.

Termination of captivity

Articles 68 to 74 states that seriously sick and seriously injured prisoners of war must be repatriated as soon as their condition allows and no repatriated person may be utilized in active military service.

Article 75 covers release at the end of hostilities. The release of prisoners should form part of the armistice. If this is not possible then repatriation of prisoners shall be effected with the least possible delay after the conclusion of peace. This particular provision was to cause problems after World War II because as the surrender of the Axis powers was unconditional (unconditional surrender) there was no armistice, and in the case of Germany a full peace treaty was not signed until the signing of the Treaty on the Final Settlement With Respect to Germany in 1990.

Article 76 covers prisoners of war dying in captivity: they should be honorably buried and their graves marked and maintained properly. Wills and death certificate provisions should be the same as those for the detaining power's own soldiers.

Bureau of relief and information concerning prisoners of war

Articles 77 to 80 covers how and how frequently the Powers should exchange information about prisoners and the details of how relief societies for prisoners of war should be involved in their relief.

Application of the Convention to certain classes of civilians

Article 81 states that individuals who follow the armed forces without directly belonging thereto, who fall into the enemy's hands and whom the latter think expedient to detain, shall be entitled to be treated as prisoners of war. This provision covered military support contractors, civilian war correspondents, sutlers, etc.

Execution of the convention

Articles 82 to 97 covers the implementation of this convention. Articles 82 and 83 contained two important clauses. "In case, in time of war, one of the belligerents is not a party to the Convention, its provisions shall nevertheless remain in force as between the belligerents who are parties thereto," and that the provisions of this convention continue to cover prisoners of war after hostilities up to their repatriation unless the belligerents agree otherwise or a more favorable regime replaces it.

Annex to the Convention of May 27, 1929 relative to the treatment of prisoners of war

The annex added detail to the provisions covering repatriation and hospitalization.

Further reading


  1. Geneva Convention (1929):Introduction
  2. Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. Geneva, 27 July 1929
  3. Laws of War on Land (Hague IV); October 18, 1907
  4. ICRC Commentaries on the Convention (III) relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War Article 5 "One category of military personnel which was refused the advantages of the Convention in the course of the Second World War comprised German and Japanese troops who fell into enemy hands on the capitulation of their countries in 1945 (6). The German capitulation was both political, involving the dissolution of the Government, and military, whereas the Japanese capitulation was only military. Moreover, the situation was different since Germany was a party to the 1929 Convention and Japan was not. Nevertheless, the German and Japanese troops were considered as surrendered enemy personnel and were deprived of the protection provided by the 1929 Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War."
  5. ICRC Commentaries on the Convention (III) relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War Article 5 "Under the present provision, the Convention applies to persons who "fall into the power" of the enemy. This term is also used in the opening sentence of Article 4, replacing the expression "captured" which was used in the 1929 Convention (Article 1). It indicates clearly that the treatment laid down by the Convention is applicable not only to military personnel taken prisoner in the course of fighting, but also to those who fall into the hands of the adversary following surrender or mass capitulation."

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